Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Xenophobia and Racism--just another day at the office for the English FA

The English Premier League has been mulling over possibly limiting the number of foreigners it allows into its ranks. This article is typical of what is being written on the argument for the limit—sure, they write, foreigners may be fun to watch and they may put out a better product than English players would, but that will leave our national team in disarray.

First and foremost, if any cap were imposed, it would not only be xenophobic, it would be downright racist (not racist in the way we think of it, more “nationalist” than anything, but this really isn’t a term you hear being used in this way). How could they get away with this sort of cap? Well, to be perfectly honest, the Spanish Primera Liga limits the number of players that do not hold an EU passport that a team can have. This does not justify it—it just shows that the Primera Liga is also xenophobic and racist.

These are discriminatory hiring practices—it is illegal to base whether someone can get a job on what country they come from. That sort of thing would never happen today in one of America’s sports leagues. Think of the uproar that would happen if a Dominican pitcher was told that he could not pitch because he was Dominican, or if a basketball player from Argentina was told he could not play in the NBA because he was not from the United States. Silly? Yes. Illegal? Yes. Morally wrong? Yes.

The arguments that it would make the English team less powerful are also ridiculous. To ensure the national team doesn’t get too soft, they’re going to give them guaranteed spots on teams over foreigners who may be better?

The numbers are in—EPL league attendances are dropping every year. With tickets the most expensive that they have ever been, fans should be outraged that they could theoretically be paying to see a second-rate product that was second-rate only because of morally wrong hiring practices.

English players are also known to be transferred for amounts much greater than their actual worth. Englishman Shaun Wright-Phillips, who was for so long talked about as being the “next big thing”, has thus far proven to be a bust at Chelsea, while Spanish teenager Francesc Fabregas has quickly become one of the world’s best midfielders. Wright-Phillips transfer from Manchester City to Chelsea cost £21million while Cesc cost £500,000. The Carter article referenced earlier makes it seem like it is insane that Wright-Phillips is not playing because of the amount paid for him and that Chelsea’s coach (Jose Mourinho) is off of his rocker for not giving Wright-Phillips playing time. This just illustrates the fact that British players are overvalued simply because they are British (it also shows that Brits like Carter buy into the hype of English players).

In a free market society, the best man for the job should be hired. The English Football Association (FA) should come to terms with the fact that this probably isn’t going to be some lad from Brighton or Southend—it’s going to be a kid from France, the Ivory Coast, Argentina or Mali. If the fans wanted to watch strictly English football, they’d go watch the Sunday leagues in their communities. They pay the big bucks to see the best players at the biggest clubs, and if the English FA gets their way, the big English clubs would no longer have any of their best players—seeing as they are not even English. Let’s face it—England’s biggest clubs are among the biggest in the world, but if the FA’s plan to cap the number of foreign players comes into effect, that would change in a heartbeat.

I’d like to one day see my beloved Arsenal play, and hopefully I do so before the FA forces Arsenal to sell off Thierry Henry, Cesc, Gilberto, Robin van Persie, Emmanuel Adebayor, et. al, simply because they are not English.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Ludacris: Sell-Out or Fraud?

Hearing the conversation Ben was having about his Ludacris blog, I finally internalized exactly what it all really meant.
Here is a man (Ludacris) that has put out these family friendly gems:

  • "What's Your Fantasy" ("back seat, windows up...." and "in the dirt, make it hurt"),
  • "Southern Hospitality" (I could not find any printable lyrics that I'd put here),
  • "Ho" ("I said that you's a ho")
  • "Area Codes" (Luda has hos in different area took me forever to find the name of this song, because every site had the lyric for hos spelled as ho' I guess Luda is not promoting literacy to his fans)

Are we are expected to believe that he is now REALLY frustrated with the way women are treated in society?

I think not. For years, the intellectual, anti-misogynistic rapper phenomenon has been on the rise. Last year, Talib Kweli played at the George Washington University. This year, Common played, and the Roots played a few years back. Previously, bands that played these shows were bands like Weezer and John Mayer. Clearly, there is a shift in music taste among teenagers (who probably consume music the most). It is absurd to think that there is not a shift taking place, and no one can possibly say that these "socially conscious" rappers have not really made a big impact on the scene--Kweli is getting MTV play for the first time ever, Mos Def is in a great deal of films ("Talladega Nights" and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy), the Roots were just signed by Jay-Z to DEF JAM (arguably rap's most storied and successful label) and Common made the theme song for MTV's latest movie "Freedom Writers" and has seen many big roles in Hollywood produced movies You're kidding yourself if you think that there is not a paradigm shift that has taken/is taking place--there is no bigger litmus test than when one of rap's biggest personas ever personally signs them to his record label.

In a way, I think that the "socially conscious rap" is moving to the main rap fans and that "mainstream rap" is being more heavily appreciated by fans of rock and alternative music (this, though, is for another day).

Ludacris had been putting out "club bangers" for years, and the first single from his latest album "Release Therapy" was "Money Maker", a Neptunes (or was it just Pharrell) produced hit in which Ludacris claims that we should just be glad that "Pharrell gave us something good to bump to." I have no problem with this--I have been very intrigued by rap in the last few months as an artform--but he should not try to be anything more than a musician who makes music for people to have a good time to.

He clearly jumped onto the bandwagon with his song "Runaway" because he wants a bigger audience. There is absolutely no doubt about this. If he wants to appeal to more fans, fine--I just hope that they all take "Runaway" for what it is, seeing as it comes out of a misogynistic man's mouth.

Either way, he's guilty of at least one of two sins: he's either a sell-out for changing his breed of music just to attract a new audience (he has NOT changed his style entirely, so you cannot argue that he is growing as an artist--if so, his first single off of his new album would NOT have been "Moneymaker") OR he's a hypocrite for saying that society is wrong and needs to treat women better when he has been, up to this point, been putting out song that clearly objectify women.

I realize that many rap fans will not care and just want to hear good songs (the songs I mentioned other than "Runaway" are great dance tunes, which is all many people care about) but I NEVER want to hear anyone call Ludacris "socially conscious" or say that he is doing a lot for the rights of women.

Am I mad that he has made misogynistic music in the past? While I am not misogynistic, there is a sense of the freedom of speech and artistic control that any artist has. I'm not standing on the conservative side of the fence and saying that rap is counter-productive and useless. Instead, I'm angry about the way that he thinks that he can be made at a society of men who objectify women that he helped to create.

I'm angry at Ludacris for trying to pull the wool over all of our eyes (trying to pull a fast one, if you will). If I was a woman, I'd be sickened and outraged.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Protests' Purpose vs. Spectacle

Ignore the pressing political issues of the day for a second. I want to turn to an important piece of the political pie that has changed this country intrinsically more than once in its history.

The protest on Saturday provides a bunch of talking points, but I’m most interested (mind you, I’m not well read on the aesthetics, planning, etc. of protest) in the purpose vs. spectacle paradigm I saw therein.

What I mean by purpose is the overall goal of the protest. Specifically, Saturday’s protest was organized by United for Peace and Justice to voice displeasure at Bush’s troop surge. But, and here I find the first problem of large political protests like this one, various other organizations often piggy back (or hijack, depending on your preference) these occasions, and Saturday was no different. I began to feel implicated by the other organizations—for example, those with “End the Occupation in Palestine” signs—such that I felt forcefully grouped into them. It was almost as if I was forced to wear a Packers jersey.

This is an important point because what’s so sweet about protests (in the US) in the first place is its most basic characteristic: that thousands of people from across the country can come together and feel safe to voice their opinions to the people who represent them and the country at large. But the views that protestors espouse are individual, specific, and personal—often, they are integral constructors of one’s personality.

In other words, there’s a contradiction between a basic philosophy of protest—power in numbers—and the personal aspect of voicing what you think the problem is in a government that represents you.

I don’t want to look over the fact that protests are not only meant to voice and show displeasure. They’re definitely meant to CHANGE the problems. So we should add that to the list of purposes that also includes the specific display against the troop increase and the general display against many other issues.

Turning to the spectacle part now, I am almost overwhelmed with impressions. The first thing I saw at the protest was a group of about 150 anarchists (black flag) confronting a police blockade like a white blood cell. Their chanting and coordination was impressive (reminded me of the orcs in Lord of the Rings) and raised my blood pressure, besides redirecting lots of attention from whomever was speaking their way.

The spectacle, I think, is where a protest derives its power and what decides its success. It’s no secret that protests are meaningful as much for how they voice their views as for what the issue is. Certainly, numbers play an important part—especially in a democracy—but huge protests (like the one in 2005) can use their numbers to manipulate ambivalent attendees. Think about the palpable tension at sold-out arenas.

I began to understand how protests could spiral violently, all I had to do was feel my pulse.

In the end, I was happy that so many people turned out to express themselves, but was equally happy to head back to GW and escape the packed, noisy scene there on the mall. Thinking back, I wonder if the purpose bled into the spectacle a little, or if the two fused into one. From a different perspective, it’s not too much of a stretch to see the goal of protesting as making a scene and drawing attention, two ideas that rely solely on spectacle.

Mostly, I still wonder about the impact of protests, and how little the majority of them actually do. But I’ll never disregard them, not in this country.

[As a side note, the three best (funniest) posters I saw at the protest were these: “Women say pull out,” “Bush is the world’s biggest poopy,” and “The Nintendo Wii is a Gillion times cheaper and a Ka’Zillion times awesomer than the war.”]

we have all the time in the world.

It hit me today that time travel is probably, most likely, very impossible (I view time as a very abstract idea, but my point in this point is not to argue the philosophy of time). Simply, I'd like to know, loyal JJ Collective reader:

If you could travel to any place and time, where would you go and why?


Would your answer to this question change if you were told that you would not only observe that past, but you also had to take an active part in it? If
you were to choose ancient Egypt, you may be forced to work on the pyramids, and if you were to choose the greatest moment in your favorite team's most famous moment, you would be on the field/court/pitch and may cause them to lose the game (based on the fact that you are not a pro athlete...though, it is arguable that you would have caught the grounder that went through Bill Buckner's leg in Game Six of the 1986 World Series against the Mets, in which Buckner not only failed to catch a routine ground ball but also managed to go 0-for-5 at the plate with runners in scoring position). Why?

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Stay Where You Are

This weekend was a bit hectic--Sarah and I were out all night, waiting for Sufjan Stevens tickets in what was probably ten degree weather and we are still both recovering from the near hypothermia that we both suffered, Ben's family came into town and my computer crashed (twice).

These aren't excuses but merely reasons why not a lot of updating has been done.

Don't fret, though. There are issues and thoughts aplenty being discussed at JJ, and we will resume the regular daily flood of posts tomorrow. Ben and Sarah attended the rally on Saturday, and I've got books full of ideas.

Arsenal drew today with Bolton--bummer. The game wasn't great (what Bolton game is?), but what can you do?

Saturday, January 27, 2007

The Milk of Human Kindness.


Let's assume that you, the loyal JJ Collective reader, frequent an establishment that gives out a lot of free samples. These free samples are not food, though. Usually, these are sample sizes of useful items, like toothpaste of shaving cream.

There seems to be an endless supply of these samples--the stock never seems to diminish--and no one monitors (or cares about) how many sample size packets you take.

Knowing that these things are non-perishable, how many do you take and why?

Friday, January 26, 2007

JJ Music of the Week--January 26, 2007

In past lives, I think I was a struggling rock and roll musician, that Ben was trying to push hip hop as an artform before it was ever really created and that Sarah was in an artistically important but publicly unappreciated touring funk band. So, from time to time, we're going to share some songs that are getting a lot of JJ play.

Rich Boy "Throw Some D's"

the outro has one of the best keyboards in the history of recorded music. "Gator skin seats call me Dundee" is a good sell as well.

Fat Joe feat. Lil Wayne "I Make it Rain"

Lil Wayne may not write his own rhymes (the same can not be said about the JJ Collective), but he is quite an intriguing character--hasn't he been putting out music forever (I swear he was nine when he rapped on "Bling Bling" and Juvenile's classic hit "Back that Azz Up")? He was on BET, introducing his favorite videos ever, and his talking voice is incredibly low--while his raps are done incredibly nasally.

And for the rock enthusiasts, you must check out Of Montreal's "Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer?" as it may well be one of the best albums that will come out this year. Finally, Of Montreal's psychedelic rock pays off. I couldn't find any videos from this album, so here are some of their more intriguing videos from the past

Of Montreal "Requiem for O.M.M 2"

Of Montreal "Wraith Pined to the Mist"

and, my favorite, "Disconnect the Dots"

The Shins' "Wincing the Night Away" is also going to be on everyone's top ten lists when 2007 draws to a close. The Shins do absolutely nothing but constantly improve on their previous records--which is phenomenal when you consider that their last release was the fantastic "Chutes Too Narrow".

Here is the first video from "Wincing the Night Away" (I wish that they would have stuck with the original title, "Sleeping Lessons"), for the song "Phantom Limb"

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Ultraviolence. (Even Apocalypse is Misleading)

Think back to a much simpler time in this world—no, not your childhood, that is a bit too far. Think back to a time before we were bogged down in Iraq. I know it is hard, but I’m sure we all remember it at least faintly.

In 2002, during his third State of the Union Address, George W. Bush called Iraq, Iran and North Korea the “Axis of Evil”. President Bush must have thought he was being pretty witty, playing on past terms to tug at the hearts and minds of his compatriots. The old adage that history should never repeat itself should have been heeded by President Bush, though. Even if hindsight it 20/20, I firmly believe that Iraq should have never been invaded for a second time. North Korea should have been the focus from day one.

There are myriad reasons that President Bush should have ignored Iraq (at least right away, anyway). Saddam had already been checked in the early ‘90s once (remember?) and was left with a fraction of the power that he previously had. We wasted effort going into Iraq to attack a man and a country that had essentially become the Middle Eastern equivalent of Cuba. Saddam made a lot of threats and talked really big, but he had no means of doing anything beyond his own borders—though Israel felt threatened by Iraq’s SCUD missiles, we have yet to see them in action. Saddam would have used them if he had them (or if they worked) to try and repel the American advances in Iraq in 2003. He didn't.

North Korea, though, is in a geographic position that should make President Bush quake ever second of his life. Not only can North Korea’s troops push into South Korea within hours on foot, but they can also bombard Japan, who is arguably our second biggest ally on the planet (and who is left without a standing army as a result of an addendum to their constitution done after World War II).

President Bush should have jumped when he heard that the North Koreans were working on a nuclear programme. Yes, a nuclear warhead placed on a missile powerful enough to drop it on Seoul, Tokyo, Honolulu or Los Angeles in the hands of a despot is scary in itself, but think about what that idea forces countries in the region to think: that a nuclear holocaust is constantly imminent. What are these countries going to do other than to try and arm themselves? India and Pakistan, who are constantly bickering over land rights, have both armed in the wake of hearing about North Korea working on their own nuclear programme. China is undoubtedly doing the same. Sure, we have Iran working on one in the Middle East, but the proximity of all of these countries in East Asia who have or are working on nuclear warheads is frightening. What was President Bush’s response? Let’s go to war in Iraq, boys…oh, and let’s try and build a missile shield over the entire Pacific and tell South Korea and Japan that it will work when it is needed, even though it has never completed a successful test once!

By going after North Korea, Iran would have also been frightened enough to want to come to the table. What did seeing bombs over Baghdad make Tehran do? Work even harder on their nuclear program. Iraq was never going to be an example because Saddam Hussein was in a different stage of his rule than the regimes in North Korea and Iran were. Again, Saddam Hussein was an old man who was clearly in his lame duck years—much like Fidel Castro. North Korea and Iran are teenagers, pushing the boundaries and rocking the boat. Seeing the “old man” go down is only going to make the teenagers fight even harder to show the changing of the guard has indeed taken place.

I am not saying that we should have attacked North Korea, but we should have placed our diplomatic attention there before we focused on Iraq. It is very encouraging to hear that the US and North Korea are talking privately in Berlin, but this should have been done before Iraq, and if it was, I believe that the Iranian problem would already have been solved.

Everybody plays the flute, sometimes

I had not thought much about the lousy clarinet sitting in my closet at home. I had stuffed it away under old comforters and bags of clothes that never made on the Salvation Army truck. Somewhere between the four times within six months that I had moved all of my belongings between apartments in L.A. and my hometown, I rediscovered the black case covered in whiteout hearts and embarrassing stickers. I wondered if the instrument had any worth.

I almost got access to anything in some Craigslister’s garage for the woodwind (mine was made of plastic) instrument. No fucking cigar. I feared that somehow I would come out of the trade with a half-used can of WD-40 and a tennis ball on a string. One phone call to a music store made me realize that clarinets like mine don’t age, they rot. What started as a $600 investment was now worthless to me in every way.

This man changed my mind:

I saw him one morning in front of the Foggy Bottom Metro station, playing some infectious tune and performing a complementary dance. I was grateful for the music and the friendly face, before I descended into my 35-minute, silent and suffocating ride to Alexandria. I continued to think about him and couldn't help but wonder where he acquired the flute. Maybe a gift from a stranger or a lifelong possession… and the vision of my clarinet accumulating dust in my closet came to my mind.

Instead of donating my clarinet to a nearby school’s band program, or giving it away to some starving musician on Craigslist, I decided that my trash would be no other person’s treasure. My clarinet would not be clutched by the sweaty hands of a 12-year old playing a two-stanza solo at an intermediate school concert. It certainly would not be recording the best part of an avant-garde indie folk band's album. Lastly, it would never ever find its way into the hands of a man who could make a living entertaining a city.

The State of Union's Demise

The real problem with the State of the Union is the amount of faith America has in a significant rite of democracy. I see three main camps of faith: one that simply hates Bush and everything he does, another that adores the man, and eye-rollers.

In theory, deep down at our democratic core, we should be excited! Here's our elected leader fulfilling his responsibility to the people--providing a report on, you know, what's been up and how we've been doing. All forty-three Presidents have made State of the Union speeches (it's in the constitution)!

But most viewers were not so excited. They made fun of Bush's smirk, his greying hair, and took advantage of every time he stumbled on a word to show why he's unfit to be President.

Sadly, it gets worse, for there is a portion of this country who did the opposite last night. They sat in front of their hero with grins as wide as Rush Limbaugh's belt laid out, and they nodded with confidence and faith.

For me, last night was different. I somehow transcended the whole event--not that it was hard, I simply didn't believe anything he said.

As I watched Bush speak--and saw congresspeople stand up and sit down unconvincingly like when a few members of an audience coerce the rest into demanding an encore--I reached a level of almost tantric un-cynicism.

I mean get real. The entire event is synthetic and has been for a while now. Bush didn't write his speech. He didn't memorize it (just the opposite, he gets rehearsal time AND teleprompters). He sure as hell didn't perform it either, like Churchill might have. And meanwhile, the congresspeople put their sudokus inside their copies of the speech and count down the minutes--"Damn, he's on energy already? Time's flying by!" The speech itself is so boring it deserves a PowerPoint. This isn't solely Bush's fault. Why should I be angry at him for the way our country's most important speech has descended into a lecture?

The fact of the matter is that past the initial veneration of the coiffured ceiling, the big American flag, and the gavel--I just love gavels--the State of the Union is emptier than a monitor sans computer. There's no substance, no personality. The stats are misconstrued, the appeals to emotion via freedom overused, and the language weak and opaque.

Man, I wish I were alive for just one of Lincoln's speeches, or sat by a fireside for one FDR address during WWII. At least then I could react to the voice of the most powerful man in the world instead of just rolling my eyes. And rolling my eyes...and

DJ Bush--give me something to dance to!

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Ways and Means

Reading this story made me cringe, but it also made me recall a trip to Japan I took two years ago.

On the plane, I was seated in Business Class (and, seeing as this was business class on Japan Airlines, it was not too shabby) and was comfortable for the entire flight...until I heard a man a row in front of me talking.

The southeast Asian flight attendant asked him where he was going, and he said that he was going to Thailand (JAL hires southeast Asian women on their flights from Japan to Hawaii because the labor is cheaper).

He continued on, saying that "the women there are so beautiful" and that "it wasn't his first trip". The flight attendant was clearly flustered, because he was very sloppy from the complimentary alcoholic beverage privileges that riding in Business Class had afforded him, and he had managed to invite her to his hotel room in Thailand if she ever happened to make her way there. It was clearly obvious to everyone who was listening what the man was going to the country for, though perhaps luckily for him, most people on board were either asleep or did not speak English and were unable to witness the spectacle that was this portly, sad shell of a man.

I've seen numerous stories on Dateline that followed men to southeast Asia on their sex-rampages throughout the destitute and impoverished nations in the region, and I'm always pushed to the point of wanting to vomit.

It's unfortunate that Americans are seen in such a negative light worldwide, but it is no small wonder when instances like this are seen by so many people. It's one thing when Americans are a little unfamiliar with the customs of foreign countries, but it's just deplorable when you are ashamed of what a fellow countryman is about to do. For the first time in my life, I was embarrassed to be an American because I knew what the flight crew was thinking about the man and how they were extrapolating it to be a stereotype of all American men. Of course this stereotype would not come close to being true, but how can we argue this point when it does indeed happen on an alarmingly regular basis?

America needs to stop treating the rest of the world like its playground. I hate to sound like a parent here, but if we (Americans) can't go to other countries without patronizing their people or taking advantage of their unfortunate situations, perhaps we should not go at all. Just because you have the ways and means to do something does not mean it is right. Sure, these people need money and are forced to do things that they don't want to do in order to get this money. But I don't want to ever hear the argument that it's their choice to make. So often, these young women are forced into prostitution and have no choice. These sex tourists are not only sick because they have sex with children, they are more sick because they pay thousands of dollars to travel across the sea to do so. They are not putting money back into the local economy--they are dehumanizing and ruining innocent, doe-eyed children. It's pitiful that some people so often tend to forget that.

Assessing the state of last night's State of the Union

It’s probably very predictable that last night’s State of the Union is going to be addressed here, but credibility would be lost if it were not.

It was clear very early on that President Bush was going to make a very bipartisan speech—he had to, because Congress is now run by the Democrats. His quips about “we have to work together to get things done” may be true, but they came off as very weak.

The problem with bipartisan statements is that the statements come off as very fluffy and light. They’re a nice way of posturing, but essentially, that is it. Nothing gets done when President Bush makes these statements, and last night, he came off not only as apologetic (which he should be) but as weak.

There is a difference between being cooperative and being weak. President Bush is not trying to be cooperative—he never has—he is trying to try and make up for his wrongdoings. He is akin to a puppy who knows he has done wrong and is hiding in the corner, with his tail between his legs, hoping that no one can see him and waiting for his family to embrace him once again.

This works for puppies. It does not work for the president of the most powerful nation on the planet. I am the furthest thing in the universe from being a Bush fan, but I am not a Bush basher—I have grown sick of the way President Bush is insulted based on tiny things that have absolutely nothing to do with his policies—but last night’s display was pathetic.

One of his first major points, about the 13,000 earmarks that cost this country 18 billion dollars a year, was absolutely pathetic. Bush said that we must do away with these earmarks. This was such an easy thing to say. Why didn’t President Bush also say that we must do away with the filibuster, pork barrel politics and “lobbying” (ahem…corruption)? He may as well have. It’s so easy to say these sorts of things, but can we ever really do away with it?

His claim that he has drawn up a plan to get rid of the federal deficit within five years is nice, but how is it going to be done? Too many times, President Bush has the long-term goal and the vision of success spot-on, but he simply did not tell us how we were going to get there. He came off as childish. It’s one thing to wish for a better world and how things should be ideally—it’s another to do all the work involved and actually make it there.

This brings me to the Democrats. I’ve heard that the Democrats have opposed President Bush’s Iraq War strategy since the day the war started, but I have never heard about how they would fix it. Jim Webb (D-Virginia) said that the Democrats want to use “regional based diplomacy” to “take the soldiers off the streets in Iraq” using “a carefully thought out formula.” What does that even mean? The Democrats hate the solution that has been put on the table in front of them, but they don’t really have anything productive or constructive to bring that fixes the problem staring us all right in the face. Anyone can criticize—the Democrats are now in control, and they had better come up with an actual plan and not just some “formula” that seems as cryptic as the one used in the BCS.

President Bush had some nice points—giving money to fight HIV/AIDS and malaria in Africa and using twenty percent less gas in the next ten years. But, President Bush’s focus is just entirely off.

He called for Congress to renew the No Child Left Behind Act, saying schools are getting better. My former high school has been ranked as the best high school in Hawaii for the past three or four years (when the extensive rankings done by Honolulu Magazine started), yet the school is about to be taken over by the federal government because it does not meet “national benchmarks.” The fact is that the school exceeds most of these benchmarks, but fails in one category—the special education kids at the school do not pass the test.

The problem is that Moanalua High School is a large school, and there is a certain threshold that exists within the testing system that states if a school has a certain amount of special education students, these students become their own sub-category. Many schools are too small to have enough special education students to get their own subcategory, and, as a result, these students (understandably) poor results do not give the school a failing rating. Many other large schools in Hawaii combat this by saying that some of their special education students are actually regular students, thus minimizing the number of special needs children on paper and eliminating the possibility that the school has enough students for a subcategory. This prevents the school from having a special education category and subsequently prevents the subcategory from failing, which prevents the entire school from needing “federal corrective action.”

It sickens me that President Bush thinks this system works. When exceptional schools that send students off to top tier schools are said to be failing just because they are large schools, something is wrong. It is astounding that corrective action is needed at a school where teachers are dying to teach at. And when special needs students are hidden among other students just to prevent the school from failing, something is definitely wrong. This act drives schools to lie about the numbers just so that they are not seen as failing. How can this be seen as an improvement? Teachers are only drilling students in things that are on the tests, and are neglecting history, music, the fine arts and science. This is progress?

President Bush also talked about the North Korean problem for all of three seconds. His talk on the Korean Peninsula was a paragraph when it should have been twelve pages. This is a huge problem that is coming to a head, and he had next to nothing to say about it. If they’re on his “Axis of Evil”, how come he couldn’t say anything about it?

The Temporary Workers Program is also laughable. So, the idea is that we make all of these illegal immigrants report themselves, come in, pay for these cards, then leave the country when the card expires? Why would anyone jump through these hoops when they can already work here for as long as they want? It is a noble idea, because it would protect the rights of these workers, but let’s be realistic: Are these “temporary worker card holders” going to be hired for jobs when foremen can just get illegal immigrants who will do the same work for less money? No. Next idea, Mr. President.

The last point I want to touch is that of cultural relativism. President Bush is so bent on making democracy happen in the Middle East. I think democracy is brilliant, and I believe that you’d be hard pressed to find anyone in America (or other democratic nations) who does not feel the same way. But we must remember that instilling democracy is instilling an ideal not native to these cultures. Some political scientists argue that democracy is just fundamentally impossible in certain countries—and while I do not believe this is the case, I do think that we have to be less gung-ho about the entire process.

President Bush’s lack of understanding of cultural relativism became apparent when he said that we have to free these people from the system that does not allow them the right to make their own decisions—essentially, ruling Muslim leaders. I would have no problem with this statement if it came from someone other than President Bush, who is on the Christian right and who lets Christian ideology make some of the decisions of where he stands on hot topics. The entire Christian right knows that the justification for their opposition to abortion and stem cell research lies within the Bible—I have absolutely no qualms about this, but neither should they. If you are allowed to be a Christian politician, we should not prevent these countries from letting Islam influence their constitutions. What are these politicians? A bunch of hypocrites ? (...wait. don't answer that)

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Scene: Limbaugh, USA

"Look, let me put it to you this way: the NFL all too often looks like a game between the Bloods and the Crips without any weapons. There, I said it."

Oh, man. What a classic Limbaugh quote, as if he just did us some huge favor. He speaks as if his words point to some deeper revelation on existence. But they don't. They give you that slow forming, Crap, I just ate a piece of rotten Clementine face.

His comments recall what he said about Mcnabb in 2003; that black quarterbacks get too much credit because of their skin color. He “resigned” from ESPN shortly thereafter. And then he pulled the predictable move of every cockyheaded idiot who gets caught up in his own web of soundless statements: "All this has become the tempest that it is because I must have been right about something. If I wasn't right, there wouldn't be this cacophony of outrage that has sprung up in the sports writer community."

At least Tony and Wilbon sort of shrugged it off on PTI this afternoon. I'm glad they didn't contribute to something that might still blow out of proportion. It’s common knowledge that Limbaugh is a drug-abusing fanatic whose rationale is as unconvincing as his integrity. We just don’t have enough time to comment on each of his aphorisms.

Of course, a lot of this country loves the man and probably nodded solemnly when they heard that statement. What a pathetic coincidence that it coincides with the national celebration of the fact that two black coaches made the Super Bowl—when no black coach ever has before.

This after so many years of racial profiling from owners who didn’t think blacks had the ability.

We should all be happy our country is so mature now.

(In other news re: how awesome our country is, a 27 year old sex offender enrolled in a seventh grade class. Wow.)

Is Maui Fever Curable?

This may be interesting reading, as it echoes some of the sentiments expressed here a few days back.

Da Bearsss

Not only did the Bears make the Super Bowl for the first time in 20 years, but they did it in characteristic style.

First, the Bears destroyed America's team--somewhere, Dennis Quaid weeps. (The JJ Collective unanimously concluded that if there is to be any future Disney movie, it will have to end with this: "Unfortunately, the 2006-2007 New Orleans Saints lost a snowy NFC Championship game to the Chicago Bears, who went on Super Bowl XLI"). Isn't it just like America's Second City to upend this country's grandest visions? Just don't tell anyone we invented the skyscraper.

Second, the Bears won playing Bears football. They played industrious defense, ran early and successfully, and truly sucked offensively most of the game.

Third, the Bears maintained their persona that has made them at once the most admirable and boring team this season. Media members from around the country have commented all season on the unequivocal interviews Lovie Smith's evenness, Urlacher's straightforwardness, and Grossman's plain (almost blind) optimism have produced. And I--I love it. I love how our defense only celebrates after important or outstanding stops. It comes from the leadership: if Ray Lewis so much as shields a guy out of bounds the entire Ravens defense gets new tattoos; after Urlacher pops someone in the mouth, he gets up, pulls the grass off his helmet, and calls the next defensive play. The simplicity is heavenly. Who doesn't need a break from the widespread over exaggeration in the NFL--all the way from the moronic announcers down?

Immediately, the Chicago media labelled the 2006-2007 Bears as the team to finally demote the 1985ers to history. I'm not so convinced. Too often this team has squeaked by--they're about as dependable as a Mayor Daley campaign speech. Besides, if they lose on Feb. 4th it will be them who quickly vacate our consciouses.

But what I do love is the prospect of my first ever TRUE Super Bowl experience and the fact that if Lovie, Urlacher, or Rex ever read this post they will probably nod, smile and get right back to work.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Yuki--courageous snow.

While walking through the city during Sunday's snow day (refer to the pictures below), it hit me that the word for snow in Japanese ("Yuki") is a very common name (Yuki can mean snow or courage, depending on the kanji that is used to write the name). I wondered how parents in Japan explain to their young children that the soft, pillowy white puffs falling from the winter sky have the same name that they do. It must be pretty hard for little children to understand that their own name was given to them as reverence to something bigger than themselves. Snow is meant to be pure, and is supposed to purify everything, but in Japanese especially, it takes on the special particle of "ga" when being referred to, meaning that the action is natural and that it can never truly be controlled.

The poetic complexity of a Japanese couple naming their child after snow, then, is extremely intense. My own mother once said to me that I "am not her child" and that "she was just borrowing me from the world for eighteen years" and that she hoped to teach me "all that she could" so that I could get along successfully in the world. In the same sense, this speech conveyed the same idea that all Japanese people who name their children Yuki consciously (or, conversely, entirely inadvertently) have--that they can never really control their children;they can only hope that they instill the right lessons in their children so that hopefully all of their decisions are just and that their lives end up falling in just the right place.

Snow Day at JJ

It snowed today in the District. We decided to take some pictures of the city to give the reader a feel for how beautiful the city is when it's covered in snow (and to show proof as to why we didn't get much work done and really just goofed around outside all day).

This is where the JJ Collective got its name

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Professor PowerPoint

Professor PowerPoint

I have come to notice that the first thing professors talk about during their beginning of the semester, house-keeping “lectures” is their PowerPoint policy. I am very interested in looking at PowerPoint’s role in the classroom, but fear not—this is not going to be an anti-technology rant (if you want one of those, go and read Ted Kaczynski’s manifesto Industrial Society and Its Future).

They all say that they put up their lecture PowerPoints after class on Blackboard. One professor’s syllabus says that you are not required to come to class and she does not want you to come at all if you are going to be five minutes late or are tired—instead, you are asked to go online and look over the PowerPoint slides.

I understand that the professors put their slides up for their students to make studying easier, but I feel that a great deal of students are forgetting the fact that their parents are paying a great deal of money to send them to this university (in fact, their parents are paying more to send them to this university than anyone else’s parents are paying to send them to their own respective university).

Tuition dollars do go towards upkeep of buildings, sure, but they mostly go towards paying the salaries of professors. Tuition dollars are not going to paying for PowerPoint slideshows—and if you skip class, you are essentially paying for the most expensive PowerPoint presentations in existence.

I’m not saying that you have to go to class everyday or that you shouldn’t look at PowerPoint slides, but remember that you’re paying for the entire college experience. Why not go to class to hear what your professors have to say? Many times, they have served in positions that are very relevant to the field that they are teaching in—they may be former diplomats teaching your intro to international affairs class. And who would you rather have teaching you about Kuwait than someone who has been there? Some slideshow?

I thought not. Go ahead. Skip class. But just remember that PowerPoint is no substitute for actually being at your 9:35 A.M. lecture (and shame on you if you actually believe that and are willing to shell out all of your parents’ hard-earned cash to learn via the internet).

But then again, who am I kidding? Some professors have actually started taping themselves giving lectures for days that they can’t make it into class. This should not be allowed. We students are not allowed to “mail in” our attendance or tests—why should our professors? Classes on these days simply need to be cancelled—and no material from these “taped lectures” should ever find their way onto tests. Students are tested on things that professors go over even if the student skips class—the direct parallel would be to prevent professors for putting material on tests that they simply were not there to teach.

Sure, the internet makes teaching and learning easier, but we must all remember that there really is nothing better than learning firsthand from experts on the matter. Teaching and learning should never be done solely through LCD screens.

Alright. I’m going to go and watch the Wizards-Celtics game on our 50-inch plasma television…err…go and read.

(and please let the record show that there is absolutely nothing that I hate more than the paperclip from Word. Ok, two things, actually. Guys who claim to be "real Manchester United fans from the United States" and that really irritating girl who goes to Lucky Bar to cheer on Chelsea every week, saying things like "I'm going there"--clearly referencing Chelsea's home ground Stamford Bridge even though Chelsea usually happens to be playing at Fratton Park or at the Reebok that week--and she cheers throw-ins way too enthusiastically as well)

Friday, January 19, 2007

Democrats: Ehhhh OK So Far

One of my New Years predictions was that the Democrats would find some way to botch their heaven-sent position in congress. So far, I admit, they're on their way to proving me wrong.

It's pleasing to see the measures the Democrats have taken to show the nation they mean business. Like their 100 hours of legislation, these plans are brilliant coups of popular attention, ways to hone the nation's focus on how proactive they can be--using the previous congress, the laziest congress of all time (literally, they worked the fewest days ever), as a foil.

Of course, these coups of public attention-- the five day work week (oh fie!), the 100 hours--have all been used before (remember FDR's 100 days?).

The main problem I foresee with the Democrats is this: besides the fact that the leadership is about as inspiring as the Home section of the Washington Post, the Democrats can't seem to muster any original ideas of their own when it comes down to crunch time. We should realize that enactments like the minimum wage bill are basically gimmes. That they have been passed so swiftly has done nothing to convince me that the Democrats will deal any better with tougher issues like immigration, the Iraq War, and torture.

Therefore, though I’m happy with the bill restricting student loan interest and the overall progress thus far, I have little genuine faith in anything they're doing.

I seek a little Democratic inventiveness. Not necessarily in trying to send a Black one-term Senator to the White House, but in original ways to fix this country’s problems. When the Democrats succeed in proving, with evocative ideas and convincing leadership, that they can handle the position they’ve been given, I’ll gladly rescind my prediction.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

The Brightest Star in the Galaxy...Well, at the Home Depot Center, Anyway

First and foremost, let’s sit back and meditate the coup that the LA Galaxy (and MLS) has just pulled: signing a not a player but an icon. David Beckham transcends what we think of as a mere “athlete”—he has become a brand. He his own line of adidas clothes and has molded himself in the image of Michal Jordan (though it must be said that Jordan’s play was the reason that he garnered all the adoration that he did—though Beckham is by no means a bad player, he certainly is not seen as the dominant player that Michael Jordan was—though it should be noted that there are five men on the court in basketball compared to the legion of eleven on the soccer pitch—which makes it difficult to dominate in futbol the way one can in basketball).

There are a few things to look at when investigating what this move will mean to anyone. Certainly, MLS wants to be seen as a more legitimate league. A Guardian article I read today said that many English commentators see the MLS as equivalent to a league full of the sides on the lower end of the Coca Cola Championship or even as a league full of the best sides in League One (the equivalent of England’s third flight)—though it was pointed out that many MLS teams consistently beat the Premiership’s mid-table teams. By signing high stature, high salary players, MLS is trying to make the statement that it wants to become a bigger power on the international stage. But, is signing Beckham the best way to illustrate this?

Don’t doubt for a second that demand for tickets will skyrocket tremendously in the days, weeks and months leading up to Beckham’s debut in the yellow, green and white of the Galaxy—the Home Depot Center has sold out a few games, but with Beckham calling the tool shed home, it would be fair to say that every game will be at capacity. The news was all over ESPN (which has been trying to become more soccer savvy) but it was also featured on CNN—proof of the appeal and marketing pool that Beckham still has. While my girlfriend will probably be a bit dismayed to read this, MLS will undoubtedly tap into a market that has never graced its half-filled baseball stadiums and newly completed soccer specific stadiums—women (I am not saying that there aren't women who don't care about soccer, but women fans of soccer will come to games now because there is a player of Beckham's stature and ability, and women who adore Beckham's persona but who are not really into soccer will also now start coming to games) trek back to the stadiums in order to see, in the flesh, the man who helped Manchester United win the treble in 1999—and the man that captained England to World Cup quarterfinal berths. I’ve seen his crosses before and heard about it from people like Ben, who have seen Beckham live—but, very soon, I’ll be able to see it for myself. The instant exposure will be there, but will it pay back the massive amounts of money that it is going to take to pay Beckham’s extraordinarily large guarantee contract?

The press abroad is making quite a meal of the story—one Guardian writer wrote that it’s such a huge fall from grace “to go from captaining England and, one year later, be playing in a backwater league like the MLS”. Surely, signing Beckham is something that the MLS did to try and shed this sort of name-calling from going on. Will this happen, though? Does Beckham believe that he can help MLS, or does he see it as an opportunity to cash in one last big paycheck? It’s great that we can have one of the greats join MLS, but we must prevent it from become like the Saudi/Qatari leagues that sign big players at the end of their careers for exorbitant amounts of money (Luis Figo, anyone?). With that being said, I have a promise on the table to buy season tickets if Beckham, Figo and Ronaldo join the MLS—and one of these dominos has already fallen.

I’m worried about what this signing means for the MLS, though. I know that teams are allowed to sign only two big players at the most, but will small market teams (Kansas City) try to keep up with the Galaxy by signing their own big name players? Of course they will. And, these small teams may seem big temporary spikes in attendance, but what does Luis Figo mean to Joe Smith, who won’t want to come to the games when he realizes that the team built around Figo just is not very good and that the team can’t compete with solid teams like the Revolution and D.C. United? Small market teams may blow all of their money on one or two big players to try and get their attendance figures up, but when the team starts losing and the crowds stop showing up, how are the teams going to pay these salaries? They’re going to have to sacrifice paying for better players that go with their star players—essentially, they’ll have to sacrifice good TEAMS—in order to pay for their stars, who will probably be very unhappy with playing in front of empty stadiums with no chance of playing for the MLS Cup. One need look no further than the Leeds United team from a few years back who had quite a few stars but that did not win—the club went bankrupt, had to let the FA take control of the team, sold its stadium and got relegated as a result of points deduction from having to relinquish control of the club. The club is struggling at the bottom of the Championship and is still paying off the debts it acquired when it signed those players.

The salary cap that MLS has in place is to prevent a NASL type situation from happening again. But, the salary cup hurts teams from building good teams. A team like Arsenal can never be built in the MLS because of the salary cap. Arsenal, to the uninitiated, is not full of huge stars (save Thierry Henry), but full of solid, world-class youngsters. Their wage bill is low compared to many other teams who have met the same sort of success. I know that no team will be able to be Liverpool, Manchester United, Chelsea, Real Madrid or Barca in the MLS because no team will attract the huge stars that these teams do—but why not have a more workable salary cap that allows teams to look like Arsenal? Why not allow teams to sign a handful of solid players—Kevin Nolan and Joey Barton sort of players—instead of having a very low salary cap and two high-level exceptions? The MLS must open up its eyes—having the exceptions and the salary cap does not create good teams, it creates teams like Southampton a few years back (with Peter Crouch as the star) who have one superstar and a terrible supporting cast. I know that no MLS team can have an all-star team like Chelsea, Real or Barcelona—but a solid team is better than one with a superstar and a horrible group of ragtag misfits.

The MLS just made it mandatory that each team has youth soccer academies and myriad of youth teams—creating a sort of youth minor league that all of the established soccer federations have across the globe. This is the right idea—the teams should be putting their money into these schools to develop players. Just like in any sport, soccer players are born with gifts but have to cultivate them in order to have them shine and become Ronaldinho. How about for every dollar that the MLS teams spend on the exception players, they have to match it with the exact same amount for their academy? This will prevent overspending and will force teams to pay realistic prices for their new stars, because they will realize that they will be paying double the amount for the player. While a dollar for dollar allotment may be steep, it is just an idea. Even a ten-percent “forced youth academy tax” will improve the clubs’ academies and will prevent them from paying exorbitant, Chelsea-like fees for transfers.

The biggest factor, obviously, is that Beckham has to sell the league. He has to believe in the league as much as he believes in his own product. He has to sell the league to MLS fans and to soccer fans in the US. He has to keep it attractive. But, he must also sell the league to his galactico friends abroad. He must tell them that the competition in the MLS is very good and that he enjoys seeing different parts of the US every week—most European teams bus to competitions and do not travel very far, while the MLS is a very spread out league. He must use his charm—we all know that he has it, as he has women across the globe swooning over him (remember, there is a gold statue built for the man in Thailand and women in Japan had their pubic hair shaved in the shape of his Mohawk that he wore during the 2002 World Cup to show their devotion to him). He must become an ambassador for the MLS the way he is an ambassador for his own image. If he truly believes in the league and plays in a fashion somewhere in the same ballpark that we know he is capable of, perhaps the world will stop laughing at the MLS and we can finally have it be a league that attracts a fair share of modest stars that put out a product more entertaining than the one we have now.

Perhaps Beckham is working faster than expected—there are talks that Edgar Davids is talking about joining FC Dallas. This is definitely the sort of thing that needs to happen to get the league where it says that it already is—and where the rest of us want it to be.

Maui Fever is Making Me Sick

I have not yet seen an episode of MTV's "Maui Fever", but I have seen pictures of the "cast" (do they refer to people on reality shows as a "cast"? If not, perhaps they should--reality shows are starting to look as scripted as sitcoms) and I must say: that group of kids that supposedly live on Maui look nothing like an accurate representation of the demographic of Hawai'i.
Undoubtedly, there
are white surfers in Hawai'i, but the fact is that the show seems to feature only blonde and brunette Caucasians, and no one of Asian (East or Southeast) or Pacific Island descent.

Is MTV trying to cater to its overwhelmingly white demographic? If so, why not just show Laguna Beach for 20 hours a day instead of ten? With the cast that it currently has, "Fever" is nothing more than Laguna Beach/The Hills with a new backdrop.

There are many issues in Hawai'i that I feel never came up on Laguna Beach, but unfortunately, they will never come up on "Fever" either because the producers didn't allow themselves the chance because they picked such a homogeneous bunch of twentysomethings.

Even the "hit"[1] movie "Blue Crush" failed to accurately portray the Hawai'ian island community. I'm not complaining for the sake of it--if you're going to make a movie specifically ABOUT Hawai'i, correctly depict the people that live in the state.

I'm not saying that there should not be any Caucasian people in Hawai'i shows(I am from Hawai'i, and I am half-white), but look at the census numbers: the people that live in Hawai'i are overwhelmingly non-white. Instead of featuring 5 blonde girls, 3 white guys and one token Hawaiian, it really should be the other way around. Not because that's the way I feel it should be done, but because that's the way it should be accurately be done.

[1]Hit is relative, I guess. If you were to ask me (and you are, because you've made the conscious decision to read this blog), I would say it is utter garbage and that it makes me want to move somewhere where there is no beach and no surf culture (Montana? Tennessee? England? Iran?), but if you were to ask my sister (which you didn't, because, again, you made the conscious decision to read this blog) she would say that it is absolutely wonderful and makes her want to surf up at the North Shore, at Sunset, and in Fiji and Tahiti.

I just googled it, and it grossed 40 million dollars and cost 30 million to make. Is a 10 million dollar net a success? I guess even that is relative...a movie might cost 200 million to make and may gross 210 million. Is that any more of a success? All I know is that Titanic grossed 600,788,188 dollars and cost 200 million to make. I don't know where that leads us, but I can safely say that Titanic was more of a success than Blue Crush (I don't know what the societal implications are of that at this point in time).

Luda, You Jerk

Let’s talk about Ludacris for a second. The man’s had some serious hits, from Missy Elliot combos to Roll Out to all those on Chicken n Beer. But the oddity of his image (please see Word of Mouf album cover), compounded with rumors of him not writing his lyrics, has made him an eccentric rap star if not a unique one. Of course, he’s also been solidly popular since coming out in 2000.

But recently, the man has straight up split his scrotum.

On one side we see him in “Money Maker,” a big bass sexy time song where the video puts him and Pharrell on top of cash stacks strapped with leggy ladies and lipstick. A good song, to be sure, with a Neptune beat (and bass not far from the “Grindin” classic) and a shallow enough message to top the Billboard charts.

On the other side, we see him in “Runaway Love” featuring Mary J. Blige. In the video, he raps in the background as little girls are, in turn, abused by drunken drug abusing parents, victim to gang violence, and stricken with an unwanted pregnancy. From the beginning, he’s decked out in Common gear, you know, that Black Intellectual fit—Kangol-type hat, lots of khakis and earth tones. A sweater vest here and there.

So here’s the question: recognizing that Ludacris did a nationwide tour to promote AIDS awareness, does this song point to his personal development and newfound wish to change the world? Or is it a sad example of using any means to sell a product? Surely Ludacris realizes the current popularity of the social awareness hue in rap, what with the emergence of Common, Talib Kweli, and Mr. Lif from the underground (where that awareness has never been lacking).

How can an artist have two blatantly contradicting songs out at the same time? How stupid do they think we are?!

Are we seriously expected not to realize that one man can say the following:

It took your momma 9 months to make ya
Might as well shake what your momma gave ya
You, you lookin good in them jeans
I bet you'd look even better with me in between
I keep my mind on my money - money on my mind
But you's a hell of a distraction when you shake your behind…
So feel free to get loose and get carried away
So by tomorrow you forgot what you where saying today

And then follow up with these heart-rendered lines:

Little Erica is eleven years old 
Shes steady tryin to figure why the world is so cold 
So she pops x to get rid of all the pain 
Cause shes havin sex with a boy whos sixteen...
Never thinkin bout the consequences of her actions 
Livin for today and not tomorrows satisfaction 

If these lyrics don't prove how much hypocritical bullshit perpetuates what used to be an art form, I don't know what will.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Quit Barack-ing My Heart.

I'm not going to lie--I was excited last December when talk about Barack Obama announcing his bid to run for president finally got serious. I thought bsto would too--seeing as how he is a liberal from Illinois, I thought it'd be a no-brainer that he'd be overjoyed with the possibility.

I was wrong. I told him that he "didn't seem excited", to which he quickly replied "I'm not". I asked him "What are the other options? There aren't many other than Hillary".
"Barack is untested and he has done nothing that proves he deserves the right to run for the Democrats yet," Ben answered. "Hillary drew up a new health care initiative. Even though it got shot down, she is shaking things up," he said.

I took this to heart. Obama is only three years removed from serving in the Illinois legislature. So far, he is using his youth and exuberance as one of the better reasons to vote for him--he wants to be seen as the young outsider who is going to bring order to town.
The fact of the matter is that his youth might be the one thing that will cause trouble for him should he get elected. He is untested.

Do I think that he would do a good job? I used to think that the answer was an easy, straightforward, slam dunk "Yes". I'm not going back on my thoughts, but I am thinking about it more carefully.

Barack has made plenty of pretty speeches. He is charismatic. And, the fact that he is from Hawaii also really pushed me into his corner--and it made my mom proclaim that she would consider voting for the first time ever after meeting him at a Christmas Eve dinner. The fact that he is a strong African-American is also something that makes people favor him.

But, we must also look at the issues. Not looking at the issues is what got this country in trouble in 2000 and what definitely got this country into the quagmire it's in today as a result of the 2004 election. We can't vote on traits alone--we must look at where the candidates stand on the issues.

Will I vote for Barack? It's likely. It's also likely that I may vote for Hillary. We all know that Barack is charming and that Hillary has the teeth--but it is time to move past these things. We must start examining their stances on the issues and decide who best represents the Democrats. We have to stop letting Barack's charm make us bat our eyes and blush and we have to really start listening to what he has to say.

You Learn Something New Every Day

Who says that professors don't teach anything during the first week of classes? I had been telling my dad that global warming was the reason for the mild DC winter--even though he thinks that global warming is as real as aliens, ghosts and "real Manchester United fans from the United States" and that he needed to watch Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" to understand the magnitude of the problem.

I walked into my "Society and the Environment Class", and the first thing that the professor said was "If you think we're having this winter because of global warming, you'd be very wrong. My fifth grade son knows that it isn't climate change or global warming--it's El Nino. Try telling people in Colorado that they're having a mild winter, and they'd probably very strongly disagree with you."

Point well taken. Regardless, I still hope my dad will watch the film.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Honey, the World's on ' Roids!

There I was, walking past Gelman and turning down 22nd when I overheard a couple arguing rather passionately.

“I mean, they’re supposed to be role models," said one.

“Well then what else was going to bring the fans back?"

“Oh, I don’t know,” the first one said. “How about amazing half time shows with high speed car chases and huge explosions! Or scandalous dancers wearing nothing but skin?”

I was confused.

But I continued walking, heading for the gym and watching cars go by, only to notice suddenly that something was drastically wrong. All the cars were huge! I mean they all rolled on 24’s.

A car flew by and I couldn’t help but gawk at its bumper sticker that looked bigger than those ads dragged through skies by prop-planes.

It read: “Save the whales.” Ironic, I thought.

I kept walking, but stopped in front of the gym.

Had I shrunk? Or, no, it couldn’t be, but, yes, the gym had transformed. It had grown so large that the trees surrounding looked like martini umbrellas and I was hardly a pebble! I strained my neck looking upwards and gasped.

I walked into the doorway whose top not even Yao Ming could have reached, standing on Shaq’s shoulders, with a six foot stick.

“What happened?” I asked.

“Things are rough these days,” said Andre the Giant. “This is the only way we can compete with those guys at the downtown clubs.”

I walked up to the courts and had my darkest fears realized. They were monsters! No, I thought as I looked closer, they were Mon-stars, from Space Jam. The tall blue one pulled up across the court and sunk it nothing but net. He saw me gaping in disbelief and came over.

“Can you keep a secret?” he asked.

I nodded.

Moron Mountain needed to attract more customers, remember?”

I nodded.

“But we had lost to the Tune Squad. But we, we refused to succumb!” He smiled stupidly, and continued, “so I tortured Bill Murray until he told me how they won: the secret stuff. Remember? I snuck into the locker room and stole it.”

I just stared at him. “Ooook,” I said. “So what?”

“Well, what you don’t know is that they got cocky and challenged us to a rematch. We killed them, what with the secret stuff on our side, and took them back with us. They’ve been there for years now.”

He laughed a terrible, cackling laugh. “Why do you think Cartoon Network had to come up with all those terrible new shows?”


I screamed until I opened my eyes. I looked around at my normal size futon and my normal size pajama pants. I turned my head towards the T.V.

Aha! I had fallen asleep watching ESPN again, and strained my eyes to see Stuart Scott: “It’s all over now folks,” he said with a grimace. “The baseball season has been cancelled due to lack of eligible player—but hey, at least this steroid policy has fixed the problem…BOO YA!”